Pazarkule. Turkey. March 5, 2020. We are not anymore in Pazarkule. But we are still in touch with the people we got to know in Pazarkule in the first few days.
Originally published by GÖÇMEN DAYANIŞMASI.
In the village of Karaağaç we met a migrant friend of ours who we got to know earlier. He said they could get in and out the checkpoint in Pazarkule without any problems. Instead, he reported that the lack of toilets, hygiene concerns and 2km long lines for food were the main problems migrants had to deal with.
We received information that around Uzunköprü in the areas around the border villages, the Greek authorities were using force and sending the refugees back naked. We got to know that many people who crossed the border had their phones, money, shoes and sometimes clothes confiscated by the authorities. This is why we decided to move to Uzunköprü. It was 20:00 in the evening by then.
During our trip we got a call from our friends who had just arrived to Kiremitçisalih village on the shore of Meriç river and informed us that something was going on there. So we immediately changed our direction to join them there. While we were still on the way our friends called again and told us that TR Red Crescent (Kızılay) had arrived to the field to provide help and that they themselves were not given permission to be in the field by TR soldiers. We realised that if the Red Crescent hadn’t been given permission, we would also not be allowed to. The Red Crescent had entered the field and were giving out clothes and socks to the people before the authorities intervened.
When we arrived to the village square, we noticed two boats loaded onto a trailer. We had the chance to talk to the villagers. They told us that these were their own boats and that they use them to bring over migrants, sometimes for free and sometimes for 20-30 lira. The person who told us this stated that they are escorted by gendarmerie and other state authorities.
They also informed us that by the end of the day, hundreds of migrants had been retured from the Greek side beaten up and naked and that many ambulance cars left the area during the day. While we were on our way there we saw many buses in different sizes that came empty and left again full.
We found out that the migrants` rallying point was moved to the Turkuaz gas station in Uzunköprü and turned back to Uzunköprü. There were around 500 migrants without shoes and most of them had yellow socks that had been given out by the Red Crescent.
In the meantime we talked briefly with a person who said they were assigned to transport the migrants. They said it was a good way to prevent middlemen profiting from it and that it was a way the state could ensure a fixed price for the transportation of migrants. For example the way Edirne-Istanbul is now fixed at 60 TL. According to what we saw, in the first days this had been as high as 150 TL.
The same persons told us that after being pushed back from the Greek border, some migrants returned to Istanbul before heading to Edirne again. From there, they tried again many times to cross the border to Greece.
Unfortunately we were removed from the place by the gendarmerie who believed there was no need for our kitchen and that it would be better if we went to the city of Meriç. We had to leave the place before we were able to get in touch and establish connections with the migrants there.
There was no checkpoint on our way at first. But as soon as we arrived in Alibey village, a civil car stopped us and a person wearing a uniform told us that we had to leave the place immediately. At the place where we were stopped there were 2 blue taxis with 34- licence plates. These were not asked to leave the place. We think the person who told us to leave was a soldier. We were told by the villagers that our friends had been removed from Kiremitçisalih village the same way by another soldier.
As we had heard in the morning the bus station had been emptied of migrants. But when we arrived there at around 10 in the evening we found out that there were again a lot of migrants at the bus station. This makes us think that while people are being sent back from Greece, the number of new arrivals to Edirne is not decreasing.
After driving a long way, we finished the day at around 2AM in a kind of park between the villages of Umurca and Masuhbey.
No Border Pazarkule/Edirne, March 5, 2020.
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